One of the amazing things about having a child is finding yourself wrapped up in their hobbies – interests that seem to come out of nowhere and sometimes fade away as quickly as they appear, but give you a glimpse of the personalities they’re growing.
I love the fact that my son trawls YouTube for experiment videos and can spend ages on eBay and Amazon looking for elements and chemicals. Now I need to figure out what to make with the gallium he bought with his pocket money.
What is gallium used for in everyday life?
Why, playing Terminator, of course!
It was great fun playing around with it, and naturally it instantly made me think of Robert Patrick as the T1000, but I couldn’t help wondering if this stuff was going to kill me. It stained a glazed plate and freaked me out when it left a grey residue on my palm, but I’ve been assured it’s quite safe.
There’s always so much to think about when it comes to practicing as an artist – will it be commissions, participatory work or studio based? If you’ve decided to create pieces for sale and then, to represent yourself as an artist, it still doesn’t necessarily make your path much straighter.
Where to sell? Choosing a platform as a self-representing artist
Today’s proliferation of outlets for selling art is a fantastic thing, but it can also be confusing. Just because you could be everywhere at once doesn’t mean that you should be. Now that the internet has democratised so much of the creative industries, it’s important to put your work in the right places – places that avoid the ‘cheapening’ effect that this democratisation can inevitably bring.
I’ve tried a few different platforms for selling my artwork, and what I think has become the most important thing to influence the selection process is faith. Does this website and the way it feels inspire faith? Do I have faith in the way it makes my work look and feel?
My initial doubts about Etsy: was it appropriate for selling fine art and not just crafts?
For my original artwork, I have faith in Etsy. I’ve been aware of it for years, but never used it to sell my art before… but I set up a shop in 2016.
Etsy has definitely changed since I first heard of it: it’s big, and it’s not as purely hand-made as it used to be, but it still seems to be the natural home for a self-representing artist like myself. It’s professional but personal at the same time, but just seems more… human, I suppose.
I’ll confess that I was wavering at first as to whether to set up a shop or not. I’m the kind of person who always has 5 projects on the go at once, and I didn’t want to jump into something else that might not have been right for me.
My friend Ellie had recently opened an Etsy shop of her own for her handmade candles and wax melts, and whilst I admired it, our work was very different. I was convinced she’d do very well, but wasn’t sure about my kind of art (and my kind of prices) working on the same website.
Maybe this was because I thought of it more as an outlet for craft and jewellery – perhaps better for the kind of things I made years before (bags, clothing and the like) when I had a craft-based business. I had to see my current self inhabiting the space, not my former self.
It wasn’t really helped by the fact that I couldn’t find a category for art on the homepage, either.
Other artists selling on Etsy
I got the push from another artist whose Twitter link led me to his Etsy shop – and it was just what I needed to see. His shop seemed authentic, accessible and true to his story, and didn’t detract from his work at all.
Looking around, I found lots of other examples of fine artists using Etsy to showcase and sell their work, with shops such as littleprintpress standing out as a beautiful example of an online gallery. It turned out that art & collectibles are nestled under the home & living category – finding my nook made me feel more at home.
I set up my own shop at last, and very importantly I’m happy with the company it keeps, surrounded by artists, craftspeople and designers.
How to set up, curate and market your art gallery on Etsy
Often, something as simple as being able to envision success can make the world of difference to actually attaining success… but the best way to attain it is to stop waffling and just go for it.
Creating listings is easy – I’m not a natural salesperson or schmoozer, and like I said, having 5 projects on the go tends to make me less than patient when it comes to administration, so I really appreciate a simple system!
I’ve partitioned my work out amongst the different platforms I currently use, so that Etsy gets only the original, high value work and I list prints and cards elsewhere. From here my intention is to add relevant work to maintain a collection based on quality over quantity.
With so many artists vying for attention, the only way to stand out is to take control of your own marketing: promote your listings yourself, through social media and offline contacts. Join my Facebook group for artists to network and my Pinterest group board to promote your blog posts and Etsy listings.
I can’t claim to have ever been a fan of Stanley Spencer, or even aware of much more than his chapel paintings, but I wanted to go to this retrospective.
For the most part, it was because I’ve been starved of a true gallery experience for years. Apart from that, I wanted to see the Hepworth Wakefield. We love driving into Yorkshire and have knocked around Yorkshire Sculpture Park several times, but hadn’t been to the other points of the Yorkshire sculpture triangle.
The building itself is commanding, and almost breathtaking once inside.
The exhibition wasn’t ordered chronologically, which was a jolt (despite the fact that we were informed of this at the start – funny how the mind expects certain things) but the galleries housing Spencer’s works thematically worked brilliantly.
Shipbuilding on the Clyde
Spencer’s wartime paintings of shipbuilding on the Clyde were genuinely full of energy and evocative of the period. They were particularly interesting to me when placed in conjunction with his landscapes; both had monetary motivations, but the accompanying text pointed out Spencer’s resentment of his financial dependence on the landscape paintings.
It was always going to be difficult to find work to engage a non-art lover, and Ste wasn’t particularly moved. He found it hard to grapple with the religious themes of the paintings when given the private details of the man’s proclivities – I found his all-pervasive and porous concept of religion amusing.
Of course, I found the portraits interesting, and his last, painted months before his death, was quite touching. Most of all, it was his handling of paint that caught me, although I’m purposefully moving in the opposite direction… its density was undeniably attractive. There was a lot to think about. (No photographs allowed, hence no photographs here.)
I could have wandered around the galleries housing Hepworth’s work for hours, but closing time put an end to that. Such a shame it’s as far away as it is – the building itself will draw me back, though.
Fearless John – the story behind a watercolour painting.
I was walking through a shopping centre in Ashford one day in the summer between terms at art school when something caught my eye.
There was something strange about the young man working at the mobile phone kiosk – I’d already walked by when my brain finally worked out that it was the handlebar moustache he sported.
A handlebar moustache painting was already on my mind…
I’d never seen anyone so young wearing a moustache like that, so carefully curled. It stood out to me because I’d been thinking about male facial hair a lot at the time, as part of a project on gender signifiers. (At the time, I was pretty oblivious to trends. I didn’t have a tv and I had no interest in fashion: both still true. I didn’t realise that soon, handlebar moustaches would be on everyone, even as jewellery and clothing prints on those who couldn’t grow them.)
After I got home, I started to regret not asking the stranger if I could paint his portrait.
It’s more than a bit strange, sure, but I decided to ask the next time I saw him, if there was ever a next time.
Of course, I did see him the very next time I went into town, but this time I was armed with my camera and business card to prove I wasn’t just a nutter. He was actually quite happy to be painted, which was a relief in that situation! I took my picture and scurried away as fast as I could.
Discovering my mystery model’s identity
After the term had started, one of my classmates saw my painting and recognised my subject as one of her friends and told me his name – John. I’d actually aged him up a bit. I now had a name (and a title) for my painting.
Still, he was very pleased with the result when I carried the painting down to the shopping centre to show him. That’s the last I saw of John.
I’ll admit, a Comic Con really wasn’t on my list, but my it was at the top of my husband’s, so off we went.
There are often interesting original artists and writers at these shows (well, at both of the two Comic Cons I’ve been to in my life) so I was prepared to seek them out in the midst of the standard superhero fare.
Having said that, this event made me think about the popularity of fantasy and how adults dressing up as superheroes ties in to the concepts of performativity and masquerade… as well as examining the all-powerful effect of the film industry on individual indentities.
Ultimately, you need to just go with the superhero flow and enjoy the costumes.
The graphic novel dream
I did get to buy a copy of Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, which Mary and Bryan Talbot signed for me – yes, I did bend Mary Talbot’s ears somewhat about graphic novels as academic writing but I’m sure she may have recovered by now.
I’ve been interested in their work since coming across it whilst researching The Thought That Counts, and whilst it never managed to make it as a graphic novel due to time constraints, I still had a wee dream of writing my own academic graphic novel.
After picking up a copy of issue 1 of 3 Parts Mad, I realised that the dream was very much still alive… I also knew that I’d chosen the wrong essay for the treatment. There was another essay, shelved, which would be perfect for it.
Still, this will take a bit of time. Until then, I’ll keep an eye out for more good drawing/writing and start the storyboarding process in between my other projects.
Any heavy, heady art theories on cosplay? Do share!